Central Arkansas tattoo artist returns to reality TV contest

Contestant Katie McGowan participates in "Ink Master" Season 9 LIVE Finale at The Manhattan Center on September 26, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images for Spike)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — An Arkansas tattoo artist headed back to New York recently to coach contestants around the country for the upcoming reality TV competition Ink Master, with this season’s contest setting up a battle of the sexes.

Katie McGowan, a Little Rock-area artist, said in a recent interview she’ll be guiding contestants during the show’s 12th season, offering them advice on their work with the goal of pushing her team to the final stages.

The upcoming episodes set to air June 11 will pit male and female artists against each other. Judges critique their work while whittling down contenders until one person remains and is dubbed the “Ink Master.”

“It’s a young, hungry crowd with lots of talented tattooers,” McGowan told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

The grand prize includes $100,000 and a feature spread in Inked magazine.

But unlike past seasons, the gender breakdown this year is equal parts male and female, a sign of a broader shift within the tattoo industry that’s seen more women enter the profession, McGowan said.

Since she started working in tattoo shops in 2005, McGowan said she’s observed the number of female professionals “exponentially grow,” as well as their clientele.

“There’s more opportunity to open their own businesses and be taken seriously and have a voice that’s a little bit different,” she said.

McGowan, 33, competed in the show’s sixth and ninth seasons. Her most recent appearance in 2017 saw her and partner Matt O’Baugh ink their ways to the final stages, falling just short of top honors.

Since then, she’s continued working in the Little Rock area and announced plans recently to open “Love Spell Tattoo,” a new shop in Stifft Station along with local artist Jesse Perez.

McGowan said she expects to start tattooing in new space sometime in June.

They’re planning a larger grand opening in July.

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